As delivered by Dr. Simon Adams, Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, on 26 February 2016 at a thematic panel discussion convened by the President of the UN General Assembly.
Mr. President of the General Assembly,
On behalf of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, I thank you for convening this important thematic panel discussion marking the tenth anniversary of the Responsibility to Protect.
At the 2005 UN World Summit, all Heads of State and Government from all member states of the United Nations made a historic commitment to prevent genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. In the ten years since, the Global Centre has been privileged to work closely with the United Nations and its member states in advancing and implementing the Responsibility to Protect.
We all know that the Security Council and the members of this General Assembly have struggled to consistently and comprehensively uphold R2P in all circumstances. We know where the international community has fallen short – in Syria, in Sri Lanka, in Darfur and other places. But we should also remind ourselves that there are people alive today in the Central African Republic, in South Sudan, and elsewhere because of the Responsibility to Protect.
The Global Centre is proud to serve as the Secretariat of the Global Network of R2P Focal Points, the largest governmental network for mass atrocity prevention, which now consists of 51 countries from every region who have appointed a senior-level official responsible for mainstreaming R2P and atrocity prevention. This growing community of commitment is a concrete manifestation of the 2005 agreement.
The Global Centre is also privileged to serve as the Secretariat of the Group of Friends of R2P in New York, which has made tremendous strides since 2008, and now consists of 50 UN members – making it one of the largest Groups of Friends. We thank the Netherlands and Rwanda for their leadership of this Group.
A Group of Friends was also launched in Geneva in November 2015. We look forward to facilitating coordination and collaboration between the two Groups to try and strengthen the links between New York and Geneva for better early warning and timely, proximate prevention.
In terms of early action, we have witnessed two recent initiatives that will make the UN Security Council more effective and accountable in its responses to mass atrocity situations. We are grateful to work closely with the ACT Group in advancing the Code of Conduct regarding Security Council action against genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes. This code is now supported by 110 member states. We also continue to collaborate with and support France and Mexico regarding their initiative on voluntary restraint on the use of the veto by the permanent members of the Security Council.
The Global Centre has also been fortunate to work alongside the Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect and their Office. We commend the Special Advisers for their tireless work in mainstreaming R2P. Tools like the Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes and the Compendium of Practice will enable the international community to improve its preventive capabilities.
The work of the Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect – and the efforts of the Secretariat to promote the Human Rights Up Front Action Plan – have been significant in turning the UN’s commitment to R2P from words into deeds. I would like to thank the Secretary-General and Deputy-Secretary- General for their enduring commitment in this regard.
Despite these examples of undeniable progress, we must face the harsh reality of the world in 2016: the global displacement of civilians due to conflict and persecution is at its highest level since the end of the Second World War. From Syria to Myanmar, the flight of millions due to persecution, conflict and mass atrocity crimes represents our collective failure to consistently prevent and protect. Impunity for atrocities in Syria and elsewhere threatens the entire human rights and humanitarian system.
As we mark the tenth anniversary of R2P today, the Global Centre for R2P welcomes the draft General Assembly resolution on the Responsibility to Protect, circulated by Australia, Botswana, Brazil, Denmark, Ghana, Guatemala, Republic of Korea and Slovenia. This truly cross-regional group has proposed a balanced text that emphasizes prevention, which is at the core of the Responsibility to Protect. The resolution also highlights the crucial inter-connection between R2P, peacebuilding, peacekeeping and the broader human rights and civilian protection agendas.
Paragraph 139 of the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document stressed the need for the General Assembly to continue consideration of the Responsibility to Protect. In keeping with this commitment, we urge that this important resolution be adopted by consensus during this 70th session.
Ten years after the adoption of R2P, our goal remains the same: to ensure that all human beings, regardless of gender, religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or political affiliation, and regardless of where they live, do not have to go to bed at night fearing the arrival of the death squad, militia or genocidaire.
R2P has already changed the way we view and respond to atrocities. But at a time when 60 million human beings are displaced by war and conflict, and the entire edifice of international humanitarian and human rights law appears under attack, this Assembly should reaffirm its belief in our collective responsibility to protect from crimes which diminish and dishonor us all as human beings.
Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies
The Graduate Center, CUNY
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New York, NY 10016-4309, USA